When we first learned that some Jewish organizations were giving sizable grants to first-time sleep-away campers a few months ago, we asked the little guy if he wanted to go to the closest one by us in northern central Mississippi. He said yes, and I made all the arrangements, filled out all the paperwork, shopped by a huge list for the things he needed for ten days...and then, the day came today.
It was one hot drive to the campsite, but we made it in time to sit in a line of cars that stretched for nearly a mile outside of the camp entrance for twenty minutes, a line that gave even the local authorities pause - they called the camp director to voice their concerns, and he reassured them by telling them of the camp's record numbers that year and by opening the gates a little early to let us all through. They were organized there, directing us to the kiddo's cabin across the lake with no trouble at all. We encountered even less trouble ensconcing him in a top bunk, unpacking his duffel, and getting him settled.
Big hug to him, big kiss as he climbed up to his new perch.
"Okay, bye-bye, guy."
"Okay, bye," he said. Then he turned to the kid in the top bunk across from him and tried to chat him up. Mom and Dad were clearly dismissed.
Friends and family have since expressed surprise at his actions. They can't believe that someone so young with nobody he knows in his age group right off at camp didn't try to hold onto us for dear life and declare his intention to never let us go unless he was back at home. But he didn't.
And I find myself unsure of how to feel about that.
The parenting manual for the first-time camper tells us we shouldn't be saying too much to him in our short missives to camp about how much we're going to be missing him, how miserable we're going to be without him, how much he means to us. He's going to camp, not to Afghanistan, overstuffed duffel notwithstanding.
I sent him a welcome email (oh, how summer camp has embraced technology in this day and age) and had to work to refrain from inserting such sentiments in there.
The house is emptier without him, a little less sunny without his smiling face and his seven-and-a-half-year-old's sense of humor. Of course, we are left with his mess, which I could do without - but I find that I want the stuff he left behind, the kid disarray, to stay a little longer.
Tonight, he's asleep with 11 other peers in a cabin by a lake.
Tonight, so is a part of my heart.